June 26, 2023


Students marvel at innovation

UCU Robotics Students Spark Innovation at Ntare School in Mbarara

By Irene Best Nyapendi

On June 24th, students from Uganda Christian University (UCU) in the Department of Computing and Technology in collaboration with Google, through the UCU Google Student Developers’ Club, paid a visit to Ntare School in Mbarara to inspire secondary students with their impressive innovations.

The Ntare School Robotics Colloquium saw the participation of at least four secondary schools: Bweranyangyi Girls Secondary School, Mbarara Secondary School, Nyamitanga Secondary School, and Kigezi High School.

During the colloquium, UCU students showcased several projects aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These projects aimed to address various community issues through innovative solutions.

Google Students Team at Ntare
One of the UCU Robotics team members exhibits one of UCU’s homemade robots. to Ntare students Photo/Irene Nyapendi

The exhibition not only allowed the UCU students to demonstrate their practical skills but also provided a valuable learning experience for the Ntare School students.

Students’ Thoughts on the innovation expo

Rachel Mbeiza Isooba, a student pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, was thrilled to participate in the exhibition and inspire her fellow students. She shared, “Being able to showcase our projects to the Ntare School students and witness their enthusiasm was incredibly rewarding. I hope it encourages them to explore their own innovative ideas.”

Joseph Miiro Luutu, another UCU student specializing in artificial intelligence and robotics, recognized the impact of such events on students’ growth. He stated, “It was an honour to be part of the exhibition and share my knowledge with the Ntare School students. By introducing them to robotics and technology, we hope to inspire them to pursue their passions and make a difference in their community.”

The Ntare School students were captivated by the innovative projects presented by the UCU students. The practical demonstrations left a lasting impression, igniting their curiosity and motivating them to delve deeper into the world of robotics. With the guidance and support from innovation-driven institutions like UCU, the students are poised to unleash their creativity and drive positive change through technology and innovation.

Other voices

Martin Kubona, a tutor in the Department of Computing and Technology, explained that their participation in the exhibition was intended to inspire young people to leverage innovation in solving problems within their communities.

He emphasized the significance of exposing their students to different communities across the country, allowing them to gain a broader perspective on various issues. He stated, “At the department, we emphasize project-based learning, allowing our students to put what they learn in class into practice and exhibit their work to the community.”

The event served as an enlightening experience for their students, as they witnessed how other young individuals were tackling problems through innovative projects. “Inspiring the younger generation aligns with our department’s goals. When secondary students observe UCU students exhibiting their projects, they are motivated to explore and see if they can achieve similar or even better outcomes,” said Kubona.

He further highlighted the uniqueness of the exhibition, specifically how secondary students aligned their projects with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He noted that while many people come up with projects, often those projects fail to address any specific problem.

Ntare students

Wilson Ndeze, the Deputy Head Teacher of Ntare School, expressed gratitude to UCU for providing hands-on technical knowledge to his students. He explained that since the government transitioned from a knowledge-based to a competency-based curriculum, the UCU team’s involvement in skilling young innovators held immense significance.

“We are extremely grateful to UCU for sharing practical knowledge with our students and inspiring them to embrace innovation as a means to solve problems within their community,” Ndeze said. He emphasized that these learners reside in societies facing numerous challenges, and exhibitions like these help open their minds to innovative solutions.

Joseph Twinomugisha, a senior three student from Ntare School was inspired and motivated by the UCU team to embark on his own projects. “Today I’ve learnt from the UCU team that if you have an idea, you need to involve other people so that they can advise and finance you to grow your project,” Twinomugisha said.

He adds that he is so grateful to UCU because robotics has been a silent element of endeavour in the study of sciences, at their school. “We appreciate UCU for bringing us samples of their work and helping us get ideas of projects to work on,” Twinomugisha said.


Triumphant UCU Alum Achieves Engineering PhD at Renowned Japanese University

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By Pauline Luba
“A name is so important. A surname connects you to your past, to your family.” This quote is attributed to Canadian author Kelley Armstrong. 

On life at UCU

The life of Joyce Nakayenga, a new recipient of a PhD in engineering, is aligned with the writer’s assertion. Named after her paternal grandmother, Nakayenga grew up knowing that she had to uphold that matriarch’s legacy of hard work and overcoming challenges. Nakayenga’s grandmother struggled to educate her children despite having so little. 

When Nakayenga was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in Engineering – Civil and Environmental Engineering from Hiroshima University in Japan on March 23, 2023, and as other members of her family as well as friends looked on, her grandmother’s spirit was ever present. With the degree, the 31-year-old also won three prestigious university awards.  Her research earned her the Best Presentation Researcher, Academic Encouragement Award and the 2022 Hiroshima Excellent Student Award.

For many who know Nakayenga’s academic ability, the latest attainment likely isn’t surprising. In 2015, she was not only a recipient of a First-Class degree in Bachelor of Science in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Uganda Christian University (UCU), but also had the best marks in her class. For that feat, she earned an academic excellence award at UCU. Consequently, UCU’s Department of Engineering and Environment hired Nakayenga as a tutorial assistant for one year.

“I have always wanted to be an engineer,” Nakayenga told Uganda Partners. “I wanted a profession that showed where I could visibly see the fruits of my work thereafter.”

UCU’s location within her home district – Mukono – and its deep roots in Christianity were a good fit for Nakayenga’s higher education choice.

Nakayenga notes that the UCU community, including its lecturers, were instrumental in ensuring concentration in books, overall performance and continued learning. For instance, a former lecturer at UCU brought her attention to the existence of the Mext scholarship to study at Hiroshima. Nakayenga enrolled for a master’s at the university in 2017 and the scholarship was extended to doctorate studies because she had passed the first post-graduate hurdle with flying colors. 

Nakayenga describes herself as someone “keen on promoting sustainable societal development, especially for developing countries, through innovative engineering solutions.” Her PhD research, under the topic “The re-use of stone quarry waste (i.e granite and limestone powder) to improve the properties of weak clay soils,” gives her the competence to be able to develop “sturdy infrastructure that will stand the test of time and natural disasters.” The research focused on how to make naturally weak clay soil strong, by using stone powder. 

Nakayenga is the fifth born of six children of Dr. Wilson Mubiru and Specioza Nabatanzi Mubiru. Nakayenga’s family had to use resources sparingly, having at one time been an extended family of up to 18 members living under one roof.  Her parents, now retired, were public servants. Wilson was the officer in charge of health in central Uganda’s Mubende district while Specioza served as an education officer in the same district.

Nakayenga attended Mubende Parents School for her primary education and Nabisunsa Girls School for her secondary education before joining UCU. Nakayenga balanced academics and student leadership roles at every school she attended. At Mubende Parents School, she was the assistant head prefect. At UCU she represented her faculty in the UCU students’ parliament. At Hiroshima University, from 2017 to 2018, Nakayenga was the university’s Study Abroad Ambassador, where she sensitized students on the benefits of studying in the Hiroshima Prefecture (municipality). 

For now, she will remain in Hiroshima, where the university has employed her as a postdoctoral researcher in the geotechnical laboratory of Hiroshima University.